Malta will not be intimidated by Russia, coach Devis Mangia insists

National Team coach Devis Mangia insists controversial decision to hand Slovenia a match-winning penalty during last Saturday’s game ‘was not a foul’ 

Malta National Team coach Devis Mangia (Photo credit: Domenic Aquilina/MFA)
Malta National Team coach Devis Mangia (Photo credit: Domenic Aquilina/MFA)

National Team coach Devis Mangia has insisted Malta will not be intimidated by Russia, as both teams faceoff in the last match of the international break on Tuesday.  

“We have to try to play our style of football. We have to be clever to understand different moments of the match,” he said.  

On matchday 8 of the 2022 World Cup qualifiers, Malta faces former hosts Russia, on the back of a 1-0 loss against Slovenia.  

This is the second meeting between the two sides drawn in Group H, and Malta will be looking to secure victory against their hosts after falling to a 3-1 defeat in March’s reverse fixture. 

A good performance against Cyprus also helped the national team to get the three points, lifting the team on the four-point mark in Group H last week.  

In their previous match, opponents Slovenia were handed a dubious 44th minute penalty which was converted successfully by Sandi Lovric.  

Asked on the controversial decision, Mangia said he felt it wasn’t a penalty. 

“For me it's not a penalty, but the VAR protocol is a complex one,” he said. 

Keeper Henry Bonello also said that when questioned on the decision, the match referee had insisted a VAR check was carried out behind the scenes, and it was a clear foul.  

On the team selection for Tuesday’s match, the coach said he would be assessing his players’ physicality following the last two matches, and would be choosing his first 11 on the day of the game.  

With fans returning to stadiums for a national team match for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mangia said their support is “crucial”. 

“I always prefer fans in stadiums. We are here for them,” he said.  

Tuesday’s match against Russia will be played at the Otkrytiye Arena in Moscow at 8:45 pm.